Tag Archives: professionalism

Wow audience members—after your presentation

If you want to make a lasting impression on your audience, stay in character even after you have delivered your closing statement. Do the following:

  • Hold yourself accountable for your words. Stick around to answer questions, address concerns, pose for pictures or simply chat with audience members. If you don’t run and hide immediately following your presentation, you’ll show that you stand behind your words—enough so to face any negativity that might be headed your way.
  • Keep your performer face on. During those minutes following your presentation, maintain the professionalism you exhibited on stage. When people congratulate you on a job well done, graciously accept. Don’t point out your flaws or talk about how nervous you were. You don’t want to diminish the audience’s perception of you with self-deprecating comments.
  • Follow up. Find a good reason to contact attendees following the presentation. If you didn’t know something during the presentation, send an email with the answer. Or mail or email audience members additional information relevant to the presentation. One easy way to make that connection is to resend electronic copies of the presentation visuals.

Note: Whenever you do reach out to audience members, invite them to connect with you on LinkedIn or to follow you on Facebook or Twitter.


Our way of saying “Thanks!”

Thanksgiving is this week, and we want to take a moment to thank you—our valued readers—for reading this blog.

Each week, you check in to read insightful articles on how to improve as a public speaker, and we appreciate your readership.

As a show of appreciation, we’re offering you these special reports—and more—at no cost:

  • 7 Common Credibility Blind Spots and How They Can Derail Your Image
  • Are You Confident or Cocky?
  • 3 Steps to Better Public Speaking
  • Write a Well-Structured Agenda
  • Move People With Words

Simply visit www.AmericanSpeaker.com, click on “Free Reports” in the navigation bar and gain access to 10 totally free special reports that will guide you to be a stronger public speaker.

While you’re there, check out this month’s Focus On Technology section to learn tricks for using technology in your presentations.

We’re taking some time off for the holiday, but we’ll post our next article on 11/28.

Until then, best wishes to you and your loved ones for a very happy Thanksgiving!

PowerPoint presentation techniques: 25 sins you must avoid

PowerPoint presentation techniques

PowerPoint has gotten a bad rap not because it’s a bad tool in and of itself, but because so many people misuse it. Here at American Speaker, we encourage people to use PowerPoint properly. This month, we shared PowerPoint presentation techniques for improving your slides in the free Focus On section on AmericanSpeaker.com and for including visuals in the free American Speaker Forum e-letter (sign up to receive ASF today if you haven’t already). Plus, some of our most popular public speaking audio conferences are about using PowerPoint correctly: “Avoiding the PowerPoint Coma” and “Why Most PowerPoint Presentation Stink … And How to Sure Yours Don’t.” Long story short, we love PowerPoint when it’s used well.

But we loathe these PowerPoint sins that give the tool a bad name:

  1. Presenters who read their slides verbatim.
  1. Text-only presentations.
  1. Slides with full paragraphs.
  1. Slides packed with bullet point after bullet point after bullet point.
  1. Distracting animations.
  1. Too-slow slide transitions.
  1. Gimmicky sound effects.
  1. Too-small fonts.
  1. Cheesy fonts (like Comic Sans or Papyrus).
  1. Text in difficult-to-read colors.
  1. Jarring colors.
  1. Impossible-to-decipher graphs and charts.
  1. Inappropriate design themes (like background butterflies or snowflakes for a work-related presentation).
  1. Infantile graphics for adult audiences (like cartoon clipart).
  1. Lots of images crammed on one slide.
  1. Inconsistent formatting for titles, text, bullet points, borders, etc.
  1. “Franken-presentations” that include slides from multiple sources—and thus, lots of inconsistencies.
  1. Jargon and other unnecessarily confusing vocabulary.
  1. Presenters who race through slides.
  1. Obnoxious formatting of text (like words that are bold, italicized and underlined).
  1. Non-functioning audio or video.
  1. Unattributed pictures or quotes.
  1. A general lack of proofreading or editing.
  1. No “Plan B” in case technology fails.

Which PowerPoint presentation technique sins do you find most irritating?

[Image Source: Paul Hudson]

Prepare yourself for unpredictable hecklers

Muppet hecklers, Statler and Waldorf

By nature, presenters take a vulnerable position in front of a crowd. They share information, express opinions and hope audience members approve. Common etiquette calls for the audience to sit quietly or offer support through applause and laughter, but that doesn’t always happen. A heckler in the crowd can ruin the whole experience.

No one is immune to rude interruptions. Even though heckling during formal statements in the Rose Garden is highly unusual, President Obama found himself under fire while announcing his administration’s decision to stop deporting illegal immigrants who came to the US as children. In the middle of Obama’s statement, Neil Munro from the Daily Caller shouted a question asking why Obama favored foreign workers over Americans. A rattled Obama held up his hand and responded “It’s not time for questions. Not while I’m speaking.” Munro continued to interrupt. Obama later reprimanded Munro by telling him that next time he needs to wait to ask questions until the formal statement is complete.

When you find yourself in the awkward situation of being heckled, the first priority is to manage your emotions so you can handle the heckler with dignity. No doubt being interrupted will make you angry and want to say something to make the person shut up, but bite your tongue and try to keep your cool. Role playing prior to the event may help you fight natural reactions and remain calm.

Practice the following levels of interruption to prepare yourself for differing decrees of heckling:

  • Level one: Someone shouts a comment or question at you during your speech. Allow the heckler to continue on a bit because interrupting the interruption will only make the person pipe up again. Ignore the comment and continue on with your speech.
  • Level two: The heckler yells something else to grab your attention. Respond with a short phrase such as “Got it” to calm things down and stop the interruption. You can also add a “shhhhh” and gesture with your index finger held to your lips. Continue with your speech.
  • Level three: The heckler continues to badger you. Now you need to respond to the comments so the person will stop. Make your response brief and, most importantly, look away from the heckler to address a different part of the audience. This gesture breaks the conversation, so after your response you can continue on with your speech.
  • Level four: The heckler does not stop interrupting. Try to shame the offender by saying “You’ve made a number of points. I’m finding it difficult to proceed with my presentation. Please hold your comments until the end.” Again look away from the offender and continue with your presentation.
  • Level five: The persistent heckler wants more attention and keeps interrupting. Now it’s time for you to turn the audience against the offender. Ask the crowd whether they want you to continue or they want to hear more from the heckler. Most audiences are fed up at this point and clearly choose you. The heckler has no choice but to stop. On the rare occasion when the crowd picks the heckler over you, leave the stage graciously.

When have you experienced heckling and what did you do about it?

[Image Source: Rotten Tomatoes]

Your reaction sets the tone

Despite your best efforts to prepare for a presentation, you can’t prevent every possible mishap. The best you can do is to minimize the disruption and show your grace.

That’s what German Chancellor Angela Merkel did at a political dinner on Ash Wednesday. She had just sat down when a waiter served her a beer—and then spilled five more beers from his tray down her back.

Merkel gave a little shriek when the beer spilled, but she quickly regained her composure and even smiled at the waiter, according to The Telegraph. Shortly after that, Merkel delivered her speech.

Whether a server spills soup in your lap, the computer with your slides freezes or the audio system fails, your reaction will set the tone for how the audience remembers the incident, and whether it becomes more memorable than your remarks. Even if they remember the mishap, make sure that the lasting impression is the grace with which you handle the situation.

What is the worst thing that has happened to you before a presentation, and how did you handle it?

Be seen and heard before you hit the stage

By Kendall Martin

Whether you are a seasoned professional or are just starting out in the public speaking arena, you need to learn how to market yourself in order to book speaking engagements. The difference between a packed calendar and a dry spell comes down to your ability to sell yourself as a speaker.

Stay on top of your game with these key marketing practices:

  • Film your speech. Recruit someone to record your speaking engagements so you have examples to present to potential clients. The decision between you and another speaker may come down to the client getting a sneak peek of one of your successful presentations.
  • Create your own category. Avoid being lumped together with other speakers. Pinpoint what makes you unique and use it to your advantage. Identify what separates you from the rest and play that as your approach.
  • Maintain a source for more information. A website or blog is an inexpensive and essential tool for marketing yourself. Create a user-friendly site where potential clients can go to learn more about your service. Writing a regular blog is a great way to demonstrate your personality, style and expertise.
  • Be seen and heard. Write-ups in newspapers or magazines and visibility on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube get people talking about you. Have a strong online presence. Keep track of your reviews and write-ups, and quote them or link to them on your website.

What other marketing tips do you have for booking speaking engagements?

Look the part

By Kendall Martin

Not too long ago, this picture of Senator Rand Paul was splashed across the front page of newspapers. Nothing says “Don’t take me seriously” like a politician in a jacket and tie with shorts and running shoes. Sure, he was coming from his son’s soccer game to make the interview. But it doesn’t change the image that’s now forever in the public eye.

The same goes for videoconferencing. More and more organizations are turning to videoconferencing due to the expense of sending employees to meetings that require travel and lodging.

In those situations, how you present yourself is as important as what you say. Colleagues are not going to take you seriously if you appear on camera in shorts and a t-shirt. You should treat a videoconference as you would an in-person meeting.

Follow these simple tips when presenting on camera:

  • Appearance counts. Dress as you would for a meeting in the office. You wouldn’t come to a board room in workout clothes.
  • Avoid bright colors. Solid shades of blue or gray work best with most skin tones.
  • Maintain good posture. Sit up straight and make eye contact with the camera.
  • Be aware of space. Don’t sit too close to the camera. Do a run-through before the meeting begins so you understand how you will be seen by meeting participants.
  • Avoid distracting movements. Be careful not to tap your pen, move back and forth in your chair or shuffle papers.

What advice do you have for appearing professional during a videoconference?

[Image Source: Melina Mara of The Washington Post]